Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Tyranny of Hurt Feelings

As you know, Netflix is embroiled in a controversy over a Dave Chappelle comedy routine. The reason, Chappelle had the unmitigated gall to defend J. K. Rowling and to assert that men and women were not interchangeable. He asserted that you cannot change your gender by changing your mind. That is, he defended the gender binary-- which nowadays counts as heresy.

Apparently, at our current cultural moment, stand-up comedians must not speak out about certain subjects, lest they provoke hatred and violence. Apparently, the people who have for years now been inciting violence against the former president of the United States are exempt from these rules.

I have written about the Chappelle controversy in a prior post. Link here.

When the controversy first broke, the Netflix co-CEO, Ted Sarandos defended the Chappelle show in a memo. Now, however, seeing a mini-uprising by staff members, he has changed his tune. 

The Daily Mail reported an interview that Sarandos did with the Hollywood Reporter. In it, Sarandos seemed to be backtracking on his previous remarks. He declared that he had a communications problem, because he had not shown sufficient sensitivity to the hurt feelings of certain people.

In the interview, Sarandos was asked if his attitude on the special changed after the criticism he received for the memos.

'No, my stance hasn’t changed,' he said. 'I can tell you I screwed up those communications in two ways.'

'One of them was, I should have first and foremost acknowledged in those emails that a group of our employees were in pain, and they were really feeling hurt from a business decision that we made. 

'And I, instead of acknowledging that first, I went right into some rationales. 

Yes, indeed. It’s a mental health issue. And the mental health issue in particular suggests that the pain that the transgendered feel, for having undegone biochemical mutilation, for having suffered surgical mutilation and for poisoning themselves with cross-sex hormones, that their real pain derives from the fact that a stand-up comedian refused to accept that they were really the gender they believed themselves to be.

Anyway, Sarandos explained that his prior emails showed a lack of humanity. He might have called out those who insist that they should have despotic control over the minds of other people, but he did not. 

'And so first of all, I’d say those emails lacked humanity, in which I like to and I do generally communicate with our teams.'

He also noted that the email's message was 'out of context' and that it was part of an ongoing conversation of the impact that onscreen content can have.

'I 100 percent believe that content on screen can have impact in the real world, positive and negative,' he added.

The interviewer also probed the question on Sarandos' stance on the special, and grilled still wanted to know if it changed since the controversy.

Again, Sarandos offers a reading of the current cultural climate--one that has seen good and evil transformed into more therapeutically correct values, like feeling good and feeling bad.

In the current climate feeling protected and safe trumps all considerations regarding freedom of expression. Some people insist that they must never be exposed to a discouraging word, lest their mental health suffer. And their mental health is the gold standard, to which all people must bow down. Obviously, this runs directly counter to the first amendment to the Constitution, point that no one much cares about any more.

Of course, the argument against free speech is that any speech that anyone considers to be hateful will naturally and normally produce violent actions against its object. One feels compelled to repeat that hate speech against the former president of the United States, wishes for acts of violence to be committed against him must be protected.

Sarandos does not believe that there is a direct correlation between violence on the screen and violent crime. One might ask whether the Squid Game, a current and rather violent Netflix hit show, has provoked a wave of violence in South Korea? Or in any other country where children are transfixed by it.

True enough, we have of late seen a rise in homicide in the United States. And yet, were the perpetrators of those crimes Netflix subscribers, or whether they were simply following the instructions offered by politicians like Maxine Waters. 

The Daily Mail continues, reporting on the prior Sarandos memo:

Sarandos' memo continued, 'The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last thirty years, especially with first party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries. 

'Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others,' he said.

Seriously, when we decide that we must suppress comedians, something is seriously wrong. A large percentage of jokes are designed to offend. If you cannot stand to hear a joke that mocks you or even that sees the world differently you probably have a problem.

And while we are talking about transgenderism, we can recall the boy wearing a skirt who raped two girls in a Virginia high school. And of course we must consider that certain high schools now allow, in the name of diversity and inclusion, boys to disrobe in the girls' locker room. If the girls feel offended, that is their problem. Rest rooms are no longer safe spaces for high school girls, or for any women, for that matter.

And, one more time, in the matter of seditious rhetoric, some forms of incitement, explicitly targeting political figures, is not legal today. The first amendment is obviously not absolute.

You are not allowed to threaten the life of the president of the United States-- unless you are referring to Donald Trump.

But clearly, it matters far less than do a few jokes offered by a stand-up comedian.


Anonymous said...

I really miss George Carlin these days.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

As do we all....

Anonymous said...

"...a group of our employees were in pain."

If a comedy routine causes you pain, perhaps you could indulge the rest of us and refrain from reproducing.

As for Ted Sarandos; with that backbone I expect to see him an a dress any day now. I understand you can have your testosterone levels checked fairly inexpensively these days, just saying.

October 20, 2021 at 6:41 AM

370H55V said...

Missing from this offering is are the following observations:

1) Only SOME people have the right not to be offended.

2) THEY get to define hate speech.

3) None of this would have happened without what Rush Limbaugh used to call the "chickification of America".

Sam L. said...

I did not know that Netflix is in a controversy, as I've never watched Netflix. If I am offended, I can offend the offender, or just ignore the offender (my preferesnce).
Some people like to be offended, so that they can offend right back.

Anon, you could have said, "Suck it up, buttercup." But you're easy-going.

370 (May I call you 370?), we all miss Rush.

370H55V said...

@Sam L.

Turn it upside down and you can call me that :-)

Sam L. said...

370H55V, my computer won't print upside down characters. Dang computer!!!!!